Changes in the behaviour of a person with dementia are very common and can be stressful for the person themselves, families and carers. Change in behaviour can take place for a number of reasons; for example as a result of the physical changes taking place in the brain or by changes in their environment, health or medication.
For many, the key to coping is understanding the underlying cause.
People with dementia may become verbally abusive or become aggressive to the point of physical violence. This usually occurs when the person feels misunderstood or provoked.
Prevention can include:
- Have a doctor check for a medical condition
- Avoid confrontation, distract them with a suggestion like – a nice cup of tea etc.
- Try to avoid putting the person in a situation which may produce anxiety, fear or disorientation
- Prepare the person by explaining what is going to happen or where you are going
- Try to use encouragement, praise and affection rather than criticism or frustration
- Ensure your own protection. Leave the room until the outburst is over.
Management may include:
- Make no attempt to restrain the person – stay out of reach
- Try to avoid making the situation worse by shouting or touching the person
- Try reacting with a calm voice or reassuring words
- Give the person time to settle down
- Seek professional help
- Expect to be upset.
Remember it is the illness and not the person that is causing the behaviour.
Reference: Harvard Health Letter Special Report, Commonwealth, Dept., of Health & Family Services, (The Carer Experience)